LA – the second largest city in the United States, land of the rich and famous, home to Hollywood and my next travel destination. My friend Olly was having her wedding ceremony in early March and it was a fabulous excuse to book a flight to stay with her and her husband Phil.
Tip: I flew on the new Virgin Dreamliner and would highly recommend it – huge leg room in standard economy, a choice of sixty plus films and great food.
On arrival in LA, like most of the USA, you are struck by the sheer size of everything. From the roads, to the cars, to the household appliances and houses, everything is supersized. It creates a feeling of space despite the vast sprawl of the city. Olly and Phil picked me up from the airport to take me back to their house and en route I got to experience the crazy LA traffic, which seemingly exists no matter what the hour! Middle lane hogging and undercutting don’t seem to be an offence here, so car journies are quite an experience. After a quick freshen up, it was out that evening for a Mexican meal. LA has a huge ethnic diversity that I was seemingly oblivious too, with the suburbs split into various nationalities each offering speciality cuisine. The Mexican meal was fantastic and one portion would have been enough to feed three people – they don’t do things by halves here! After some wine under the stars, I eventually crashed out at 10pm – fairly respectable after 24hours of being awake straight!
The next day Olly took me to an area called “the Grove”. This is a really nice outdoor shopping area with fountains, cafes, restaurants and a neighbouring food market with all different types of food stalls. After some shopping and lunch, we drove through Hollywood, (extremely run down and quite disappointing), to the base of the Hollywood Hill. Olly had seemingly thought that the walk was twenty minutes up and twenty minutes down. It was not…so we got some fairly odd looks as we walked up in our leather jackets from the shopping expedition whilst everyone else was in gym/walking attire. It is a really lovely walk, and despite being a cloudy day, the views were great and it was very peaceful. We initially walked to the top of the hill, realised we couldn’t get an obligatory Hollywood sign selfie from up there, so descended halfway and found a path to a photograph point. We even spotted a snake on our hike!
On Saturday night it was the bachelorette party which was being hosted at Olly’s house. We spent the day decorating the back garden and preparing food and vodka jelly shots ready for the arrival of guests. It was a fun filled night involving copious alcohol and games with balloons and dangling carrots and a chance for me to meet Phil’s family.
For the next few days prior to the wedding Olly took me on lovely day trips to nearby areas including; Palm Springs (a man made town in the desert with a really nice shopping area, small cafes and lots of parks), long beach (where Polly the dog enjoyed frisbee in the sea) and a few shopping expeditions to the mall. Olly’s parents and grandma arrived a couple of days before the wedding and we were all ready for the Saturday night party.
The wedding ceremony for the renewal of vows was being held outside at an amazing house they had rented for the evening. Unfortunately the weather was a little cold at twelve degrees, but Phil and Olly’s generosity in providing copious alcohol helped give us all a warm blanket! The ceremony was lovely and Olly had done a brilliant job of the decorations. After a delicious meal the party begun and we danced around the pool for the rest of the evening.
The following day, after a lie in and Olly’s mum providing an amazing Thai lunch, we set off for two nights in Las Vegas! Vegas can be best described as an adults version of Disney land. Bright lights, crazy themed casinos, people in costumes (largely scantily clad girls!) fountain displays and street performers. It really is a city that never sleeps, although a lot smaller than I expected. We were staying in Mandalay Bay which had amazing views over the main Vegas Strip. A fun few days were had. Being tight I didn’t gamble too much money- a good job seeing as I lost it all anyway. But the free drinks in the casinos made up for that! Phil’s sister Lorrie won $1800 only to lose it all over the course of the following day. It is fairly insane to realise how much money people are willing to lose at slot machines and somehow a little sad to see people asleep slumped over machines. Before leaving, we hit “old Vegas”, which as well as having less expensive gambling tables, also had a retro 50s vibe and in a way a bit more atmosphere about it. Gambling isn’t really my thing and the food is pretty overpriced there, but it is definitely worth visiting for a weekend and there are plenty of shows to see.
My last few days went by like a blur; wine tasting, dog walking and a trip to Malibu. Sadly my American adventures came to an end…I left about two stone heavier thanks to Phil and Olly’s hospitality and genorisity. I had met some lovely people on my trip – Olly and Phil’s families were very friendly and welcoming and I got to see Olly live out her fairytale.